Today (13 November) the board of Tata Steel Group announced that it has decided to work towards the sale of Tata Steel Netherlands to the Swedish steel company, SSAB.
Responding to the announcement Stephen Kinnock, the Member of Parliament for Aberavon, home of the Port Talbot steel works, said:
“Steel is a strategic foundation industry that underpins our entire manufacturing sector. It’s the basis of the cars that we drive, the houses that we live in, and the offices that we work in. There can be no post-pandemic economic recovery without a strong and healthy steel industry, and with the end of the Brexit transition period looming large, the importance of home-grown UK steel sustaining and creating home-grown UK jobs has never been greater.
The potential separation of the UK and Dutch operations would present our Port Talbot works and other Tata operations around the UK with an opportunity to be even more focused and effective.
And our steelworkers make the best steel that money can buy, so there is no doubt that they will rise to the occasion. But the reality is that for far too long they’ve been forced to compete with one hand tied behind their backs, because for the last ten years the UK government has failed to give our steel industry the support that it needs and deserves.
Today’s announcement puts the spotlight firmly on Tata Steel and on the UK Government.
For its part, Tata must now honour its commitment to a sustainable long-term future for its UK operations, with Port Talbot at its heart, and I will be working closely with Community Union and the other steel unions to hold the company’s feet to the fire.
And for its part the UK government must now take the following rapid and decisive actions:
First, it must now loan Tata Steel UK the short term liquidity support that is needed to enable the company to tackle the cash-flow deficit that is a consequence of the unprecedented drop in demand caused by the pandemic. Negotiations have been dragging on for months, and every day lost puts more jobs at risk. Other European governments provided their steel industries with short-term loan support within weeks of their respective lockdowns, so why is the UK government dragging its heels?
Second, it must commit to supporting the de-carbonisation of the UK steel industry. This means substantial investment in the R & D and capital expenditure that is needed to enable our steel industry to transition to a brighter, cleaner, greener future. If we are to ensure that de-carbonisation doesn’t lead to de-industrialisation, then we need a UK government that is going to step up to the plate and work in partnership with industry towards this goal. No steel industry the world is capable of taking this step without government support.
And third, our steel industry is badly hamstrung by the impact of energy costs. We pay twice as much for our energy as the Germans do, and almost 80% more than the French. Steel unions, employers and MPs have been pressing the UK government for over five years to take action on this, ministers must now start listening.
Steel is a cutting-edge twenty-first century industry, and as such it must surely be at the centre of the UK government’s post-Brexit, climate-friendly, levelling up agenda. But for these aims to be achieved we need more than warm words from this UK government, we need action.”